Non-profits have a lot going on. Operating on a shoestring, relying on volunteers, and tackling the issues of the day tend to eat up the hours in the blink of an eye. One thing that almost always falls through the cracks is talking about all the work and celebrating the people who do it.
We’ve picked up a number of Michigan trail associations over the past few years, and we’ve seen firsthand just how important effective communication can be in retaining, adding, and expanding membership. Using social media, email marketing, and putting the focus on people, Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association has added value to the value they add…you know what we mean.
Even current board members would be the first to admit that, five years ago, only a relatively small number of mountain bikers in the region understood what NMMBA did. Outside of a handful of people, many riders didn’t know the local trail association existed. Lost in the complicated hierarchy of national, state, and local chapters, NMMBA struggled to explain what they did. Some members of the cycling community dismissed the group as a number of people who didn’t ride bikes who liked to attend board meetings. It wasn’t accurate, and those same critics may have wondered how new trails popped up in the woods, how downed trees were removed, and how communities like Bellaire worked to add entirely new trail networks.
Those people know now because we told them.
From Day One, our work on behalf of NMMBA was focused not just on the trails, but on the people. Our main focus was to put a face on the organization that highlighted that the board members and volunteers at NMMBA, then and now, are the same people you ride with any night of the week. President Chad Jordan brought his son to the weekly group ride; Vasa Singletrack representative Mike Walters races year-round. By showing the wider community the human element, we instantly created a connection that was lacking previously.
Next, we used social channels to show the successes of trail projects around the region. From wayfinding improvements at Glacial Hills, a new Winter Sports Trail at the Leelanau State Park, to thousands of man-hours grooming winter fat bike trails at all the trail networks, we demonstrated how NMMBA’s work makes mountain biking possible. We also used our social media clout to build on past events and grow new ones. Now entering its fourth year, the Traverse City Trails Festival is now NMMBA’s biggest fundraiser. The Bear Claw Epic, a September event entering its sixth year, will donate all of its proceeds to the Cadillac Pathway.
Finally, we’ve used these established channels to build membership and sponsorship. Their digital presence has doubled in the past two years, with 4,595 Likes on Facebook. Their Instagram account sees over 4,000 Impressions per week with 1,244 Followers. These channels serve as primary sources of information for riders, from current trail conditions, upcoming rides and events, and ways to thank community partners. It’s the perfect example of reaching just the right people with the right message, right when they need it.
We’ve added work on behalf of West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance and the Michigan Mountain Biking Association. Both benefit from a similar message, structure, and common cause, but with concerns and issues unique to different regions and audiences. We’ve worked closely with both boards to maintain the right message to suit their needs and bring more members into the fold. When these associations go to bat for all trail users, they do so with a strong following and an informed membership, and that’s what gets things done.
How can Q+M help your organization? Let’s talk. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a chat.